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The term inland port is used in two different but related ways to mean either a port on an inland waterway or an inland site carrying out some functions of a seaport.

As a port on an inland waterway

An inland port in the wide sense, as used in common speech, is simply a port on an inland waterway such as a river, lake or canal. The United States Army Corps of Engineers publishes a list of the Top 20 Inland U.S. Ports for 2003 and for this purpose states that 'Inland Ports' are ports that are located on rivers and do not handle deep draft ship traffic. The list includes familiar ports such as St. Louismarker, Cincinnatimarker, Pittsburghmarker, and Memphismarker.

As an inland site with seaport function

The term inland port is also used in a narrow sense in the field of transportation system to mean a rather more specialised facility that has come about with the advent of the intermodal container (standardised shipping container) in international transport. Rather than goods being loaded and unloaded in such ports, shipping containers can just be transferred between ship and road vehicle or ship and train. The container may be transferred again between road and rail elsewhere and the goods are only loaded or unloaded at their point of origin or final destination.

Shipping containers allow some functions traditionally carried out at a seaport to be moved elsewhere. Examples are the functions of receiving, processing through customs, inspecting, sorting, and consolidating containers going to the same overseas port. Container transfer at the seaport can be speeded up and container handling space can be reduced by transferring functions to an inland site away from the port and coast.

Distribution may also be made more efficient by setting up the link between inland site and seaport as, say, a high-capacity rail link with a lower unit cost than sending containers individually by road. The containers are still collected from their origins or distributed to their ultimate destinations by road with the transfer happening at the inland site.

An Inland Port' is just such an inland site linked to a seaport. This kind of inland port does not require a waterway. It is often written with initial capitals to indicate a difference to the common usage. Key features of an Inland Port are the transfer of containers between different modes of transportation (intermodal transfer) and the processing of international trade. This differentiates an inland port from a container depot or transport hub.

The term inland port may also be used for a similar model of a site linked to an airport or land border crossing rather than a seaport.

The definition of inland port in the jargon of the transportation and logistics industries is:

"An Inland Port is a physical site located away from traditional land, air and coastal borders with the vision to facilitate and process international trade through strategic investment in multi-modal transportation assets and by promoting value-added services as goods move through the supply chain".
— Center for Transportation Research, University of Texas.

Inland Ports may also be referred to as dry ports or intermodal hub.

Advantages of inland location

The idea is to move the time-consuming sorting and processing of containers inland, away from congested seaports.

An inland port could also speed the flow of cargo between ships and major land transportation networks, which would carry goods to the rest of the country.

Examples on inland waterways

Examples of 'inland ports' in the first, wide usage are

Examples of inland sites

See also


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